Ellsworth Finally Exhales

For months, South Dakota’s politicians and citizens had been working desperately, seemingly with little hope of success, to reverse a Pentagon decision to close Ellsworth Air Force Base, one of the state’s biggest employers. Well, the party on the High Plains has been going full blast since Friday, when the BRAC Commission gave DOD the back of its hand and voted to keep the big B-1B bomber base open. That means there will, for the foreseeable future, be two B-1B bases, Ellsworth and Dyess AFB, Tex. This decision puts paid to the USAF plan for consolidating all of the Air Force’s Lancers at Dyess. Commissioners believe that consolidation of the B-1 fleet would hurt mission readiness. The two bases are both “very, very good,” said commissioner Harold Gehman, a retired Navy admiral. The panel also maintained that closure wouldn’t really save any money, though the Pentagon and the Air Force disagree.